Breastfeeding has always been one of those things that has been near and dear to me. As a mother of four breastfed children (albeit a few years ago now), a NICU nurse for 15 years, and presently a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for 10 years, I feel that I have some of my own personal wisdom and insight about the whole topic of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of those things that obviously only a mother can do! Its success not only provides your baby with the most nutritionally ideal food source but creates the groundwork for mother-infant bonding.
It has been my experience that many mothers that were not afforded the supportive environment in the early days of breastfeeding, in many circumstances did not progress to continued breastfeeding with their infants beyond the newborn period into the weeks and months of infancy. Unfortunately many of these women go on to tell me that they regret that they weren’t able to do so. As a pediatric practitioner, I believe that if we make great efforts in those early days and work with moms and their newborns, breastfeeding can and will be established.
Here at Milestones Pediatrics and Adolescent Care we want to make breastfeeding our number one priority for those moms who choose to nurse their infants. Our RN Brenda Knighton and I will take the time to work with you and your newborn to acquire the knowledge and skills to become a success. Breastfeeding, although very natural, is not an instinct your baby is born with. Newborns have the natural instinct to suck and root but require our help to latch on and suckle at the breast. Moms need to be familiar with optimal times in the baby’s wake and sleep cycles to offer their babies the breast. Signs of hunger cues occur long before a baby is crying and frantic to be picked up. In fact, waiting until this stage to breastfeed is likely to be terribly frustrating for both mom and babe. A baby will first show signs of stirring by their more rapid eye movement noticed while they are sleeping. Next they may start opening their mouths, turning their heads and sucking on the hands or fingers. A babe put to breast at this stage is much more likely to have a better outcome with the whole experience. A mother needs to make sure that she has a very comfortable chair in which to nurse her infant. Ideally a chair with good back support and one where mom’s feet easily rest on the floor. Most nursing mothers will also need a supportive pillow or “boppy” to allow their tiny newborn to be positioned horizontally at a height that is level with their nipples. Occasionally an extra rolled blanket may also be needed.
From my experience in those early days of breastfeeding, the cross cradle hold allows for mothers to more easily guide their infant’s head while also supporting their breast at the same time, so it is a good position to choose for breastfeeding. The newborn should be positioned with their chest facing their mother’s chest , skin to skin contact is ideal and a loose blanket can be used to ensure that their baby is warm but not too bundled and sleepy at the breast. Expressing a little breast milk affords the baby the taste and smell of mom’s milk. By gently touching your baby’s lips with your nipple, it will stimulate your baby to open his mouth. When baby’s mouth is wide open, guide your infant’s mouth towards your nipple using your hand support at the back of your infant’s head. An adequate latch can be seen when your baby’s upper and lower lips are flanged and much of the areola for most women is in your baby’s mouth. A good indication that your babe is getting your breast milk is demonstrated by a “rocker-like” sucking motion interspersed with pauses and audible swallowing. Ideally, they should actively suck for 10-20 minutes on each breast and your baby should seem full and satisfied. After burping your baby and putting yourself back together, enjoy the sweet satisfaction of knowing your beautiful bundle of joy has received the best nutrition possible.